Like a butterfly flapping its silken wings around the ankle, the first green-is-glam shoe fluttered up the stairs of London’s noble Wellington Arch.
The feet were those of Livia Firth, the founder of Eco-Age, who had walked the Sergio Rossi stilettos along the “green carpet” made from re-cycled fishing nets. The dynamic ecological entrepreneur then greeted Nadja Swarovski, whose lead-free crystals gleam like dew drops on satin purses.
At the top of the tower, with its panoramic view across to the garden of Buckingham Palace, with the hyper-modern Shard in the far distance, a select group surveyed the shoes while Livia thanked all those who had helped to build the organic-silk supply chain, with the yarn spun, dyed and woven in Italy.
“I am Italian and Sergio Rossi has always been an iconic brand for me and it was an honour and a pleasure to work with them — we really had fun and the result is beyond beautiful,” said Firth, whose filmstar husband Colin was there to support her.
François-Henri Pinault, CEO of Kering, the driving force for sustainability in the luxury arena, joined Livia in underlining the importance of reducing negative environmental impact.
The Kering team, led by Marie-Claire Daveu, chief sustainability officer and head of international institutional affairs, have worked with Eco-Age to steer dedication and enthusiasm down the green path. The background to the aesthetic work of Angelo Ruggeri, the design director of Sergio Rossi, was shown in a video which took the viewer through the Italian factories to watch the manufacturing process that makes these silken shoes (they sell for around £850) truly sustainable.
The Kering policy includes impact on the environment, proper treatment of workers and responsible use of water, chemicals and animal welfare — just a few of the criteria that make even the small, crystal-decorated pochettes examples of good practice.
What’s next on fashion’s green agenda?
“Embroidery — making sure there is a decent wage and decent surroundings,” said Pinault, speaking passionately about regulating the chaotic working conditions of embroiders, especially in India.
Caroline Rush, CEO of the British Fashion Council, will soon be revealing a pioneering sustainable initiative, according to Firth.
But for all the impact of Eco-Age energy and the commitment of Kering, a nagging question remains: how to get this “green-is-good” message at the luxury level across to the fast-fashion world which operates in a parallel universe? The Main Street products are driven entirely by selling because the price is right (meaning as low as possible).
How long can it be before a crystal-decorated satin purse — if not those butterfly-light shoes – are copied and sold at sweat-shop prices?
I admire immensely the drive and dedication of Livia Firth. I could see how finely Sergio Rossi had worked on the satin shoes. And let us hope that this green mission, like The True Cost movie that Firth worked on, will percolate the fast-fashion business and make people conscious about what they are buying.